Every family has its own food tradition. Some dishes are so unique and staple to a particular household or to a community collectively. So is "Rasam" for a typical Brahmin family as well as for many South Indians. No meal especially lunch, is complete without having Rasam. Whatever gourmet dishes you prepare at home, our taste budswould not be satiated without having this. My grandpa is very particular about this and he gets angry when rasam is not there. Poor grandmom! with no other choice. So what's this Rasam actually ? According to wiki and more commonly, it is mentioned as South Indian soup. But I strongly disagree to this reference as it is not taken in its liquid form usually. Some like to drink it because they like it but not as a meal course per se. Rasam is derived from the sanskrit word "Rasa" meaning juice. Since this is made from tamraind and Tomato extract, hence the name. Tamraind and/or tomato extract with water is boiled and then cooked lentil (yellow split peas / Tuvar Dahl) is added to it and finishing it off with cumin-mustard seasoning in ghee. This is the base for all types of rasam and you can further make variations by adding other flavouring ingredients. Do not forget to season a rasam, it is the soul of this particular dish.
In a regular day's meal, Rasam is served as the second course. The first course is either Sambhar or Vathakuzhambu and the final one is curd. We have all these mixed with rice and with some veggie on the side. I should not fail to mention the way its eaten. The rice should be smashed well and then rassam is poured and mixed well and it should be in a slightly flowing consistency. The highlight of having this is in the end once you are done with the rice, there will be some rasam left and we like to drink it off the plate. This is one of the reason our Thali plates have rims on the side. It is one of the tastiest food in the world. :) Don't get me wrong here we would do this only within our four walls, elsewhere we follow the dining etiquettes to the tee. :)
|A typical Indian plate. The three partitions are for having veggies, kootu or anything as side and the main big partition is for rice. Image courtesy: Google images.|
As eating rasam rice (in our way ;) ) is unique so is the vessel in which it is made. It is traditionally prepared in an alloy vessel - "Eeyam Pathiram" in tamil. My mom is so particular and she never makes it in any other vessel. It is said that the rasam made in this vessel has an enhanced flavour. To be frank, I don't know how true it is. Of course my mom's rasam is much better than mine but I don't think its because of the vessel, I would give her the full credit. But it is a more common notion and it is also said that since the alloy has lead, using this has side effects. Touch wood, my grand parents are hale and healthy till date. So again I am not sure about this. One thing that I am very sure is that do not keep this vessel on the stove without filling it with water. If you do, then it becomes a melting pot literally! It will melt down completely.
Most of them prepare rasam using sambhar powder but again due to maternal genes effect, I prepare rasam powder. This marks a significant difference to the final dish. Since this does not make you sweat, you can very well prepare it.